How Do You Practice Gratitude?

by Beth Beaty

About four years ago, my daughter told me she was trying to find a concrete way to practice gratitude in her daily life. She wanted my input in part because I enjoy reading and talking about spiritual practices and in part because, as she said, “I knew you’d get it.”

I did get it. Both Veronica and I like practical hands-on reminders of the Big Things in our lives. And we had both been through a few difficult years. First the loss of first my father and then my mother – the grandparents who had helped raise her and had made our little family complete. Then the loss of a job, a relationship, a living situation. We both tend to be happy, optimistic people, but the world was becoming a bit much. We both needed a bit more gratitude.

We talk a lot about gratitude at Prince of Peace. Our stewardship is grounded in gratitude for what we have been given. Pastor Jeff has written a great blog post on what gratitude does for our brains and our lives.

But a lot of that is theoretical. I have been getting interested in what people do – daily and concretely – to practice gratitude. So I sent out emails to some of the wonderful people I work with and this is what I got:

 

Jody Slaughter, Spiritual Care Minister

To maintain a spiritual practice of gratitude I try to give thanks to God for daily blessings.  I may journal my thanks or verbalize them in prayer.  When I do this my focus and mood are brighter and I’m much less likely to be burdened by the difficulties in the lives of others or my own.  Gratitude practice brings hope and balance in the midst of life in an imperfect world.

 

Pastor Jeff

First thing each morning (Actually second thing. Making coffee is first.) I sit in silence, breathe deeply a few times and then review the day before. I sort of replay it like a movie in my mind, and I ask God to help me to see the blessings hidden in it. And then I write down three things that stood out to me, pausing to savor each one for at least 15 seconds, letting each fill me with a sense of joy and gratitude. What’s amazed me about this simple discipline is how it’s changed the way I see the world around me. You know how it is that you buy a new jacket and suddenly become aware that everybody is wearing the same jacket? It’s not that everyone suddenly went out and bought what you bought; it’s just that now you’re attuned to seeing it. And that’s what this gratitude practice has done for me. I see so much more to be grateful for in daily life, which deepens my joy, expands my peace, and strengthens my faith in a God who is abundantly generous and present.

 

Pastor Paul

In February 2013 I read an article about brain science and the relationship between expressing gratitude and one’s outlook on life, productivity, and overall happiness. So I downloaded Day One — an app from the App Store — and began using it on a fairly frequent basis. That practice turned into a daily habit that I’ve honored for the past several years. The Day One app alerts me each evening and prompts me to take just a moment to consider the one thing I am most grateful for that day. I either type it in, or dictate it. Most of the time I add a picture. Now, looking back over the past few years, I can see how the days of my life are marked by gratitude. It makes a huge difference in my life and I can tell that my heart is fuller, and my life is much richer, because I’m paying attention to and expressing gratitude each day. Give it a try. You’ll be grateful that you did!

As for my daughter and me, we decided we wanted our idea to be easy and public and shareable. After tossing around ideas – It’s an App! It’s a company! It’s a Facebook page! It’s a non-profit! It’s a movement!  – we hit on something simple, if not very elegant. We called them More Grateful cards. Simple white business cards that said “Thank you for” followed by a blank line. We shared them with friends and family to use as thank yous, as part of a prayer practice or any way they wanted to express what they were grateful for. We recently made an Instagram account for our cards, where we can share cards we’ve given (or received) and others can do the same.

At the end of one rough day soon after we produced our first batch of cards, I stared at a blank card for a long time, searching for something to be grateful for. I finally wrote “Another day” on the card and called it good. I never imagined that card would stay propped up on my kitchen table or by my front door for years, a reminder there is always another day full of new gifts and new things to be grateful for.

I’d like to challenge you to create your own gratitude practice in November. Make it enjoyable and simple, then make it a habit. Notice how expressing your gratitude – to others or to God – changes how much gratitude you feel and then how that changes everything else.

If you want some ideas for a gratitude practice, check out this post by Pastor Jeff.

Beth Beaty is the Communication Specialist for Prince of Peace. 

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